Melvin Guillard. Photo courtesy of Denaro Sports Marketing.
The UFC will hold their second event of the new year this Saturday in the form of UFC Fight Night 23, (or UFC Fight for the Troops II, whatever you want to call it really) which will take place at the Fort Hood military post just outside of Killeen, in hopes of raising money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.
A total of eleven fights are scheduled for the card, spearheading by a main event lightweight duel between Evan Dunham and replacement opponent Melvin Guillard. Matt Mitrione and Tim Hague will collide in the co-headliner.
Here is a look at the event's main card, which also features a strikers duel between Pat Barry and Joey Beltran as well as a battle between Mark Hominick and George Roop with UFC featherweight title implications on the line.
The fight: Guillard takes on Dunham in place of Kenny Florian, who was forced to withdraw from the main event after suffering a knee injury during training. Both fighters are extremely well-rounded. Guillard has the edge standing while Dunham is slicker on the ground, but neither are slouches in the opposite department.
What to look for: Guillard's submission defense and grappling acumen has shown to be much improved in his last few bouts, but he will still need to keep this fight on the feet for a chance to win. Dunham's stand-up is decent, but he doesn't want to test himself too much against such an explosive striker as Guillard. This could turn into your classic striker vs. grappler matchup.
My pick: Dunham is just too crafty. Guillard has been on a tear as of late but Dunham should be able to weather an early storm en route to a decision victory, albeit a much closer one than anyone expects. I don't forsee a submission win for Dunham like many others do.
The fight: Mitirone puts his perfect record on the line against Hague, who once again returns to the UFC after stopping Zak Jensen and Travis Wiuff in consecutive bouts, despite going 0-3 in his most recent UFC contests.
What to look for: An all-out war. Both guys are very comfortable and content to trade on the feet. Mitrione has a bit of an edge due to his natural power, so Hague may be better off trying to smother Mitrione against the cage while looking for a takedown. This bout could take place just about anywhere though.
My pick: I originally was going to go with Hague, but I'll count on Mitrione continiuing to improve as a fighter, grinding out a hard-fought decision win.
The fight: Barry returns after being on the mend, literally, following a defeat to former PRIDE standout Mirko Cro Cop in which Barry dropped the Croatian multiple times while breaking a hand and a foot in the process. He will face Beltran, a scrappy wrestler content to grind out fights in top control.
What to look for: Beltran will hold a huge edge in the wrestling department, despite Barry's attempts to improve that aspect of his game after spending part of his training camp with Brock Lesnar. However, Beltran will find that every takedown attempt will come with a price against a heavy hitter in Barry, who could end the fight at any moment.
My pick: Barry's takedown defense should be somewhat improved. I look for him to goad Beltran into a striking battle before finishing him off within the first two rounds.
The fight: Roop, who opened many eyes with a highlight-reel head kick knockout of Chan Sung Jung, will try to spoil Mark Hominick's title run. With a win, Hominick will face UFC 145 lb. champion Jose Aldo at UFC 129 on April 30 in the UFC's Toronto debut.
What to look for: Roop's best chance to win would be to bring the fight to the ground and carefully look for a submission, but his recent success has been found standing. It may turn out to be a bad idea, as Homnick remains one of the most proficient strikers in the featherweight division.
My pick: Hominick will solidfy his title shot with a second-round stoppage of Roop, who will be forced to go back to the drawing board after finding his options limited against a superior kickboxer.
The fight: Miller and Wiman, friends outside the cage and former cast members on the fifth season of "The Ultimate Fighter" will battle it out in hopes of advancing deeper into the stacked UFC lightweight division.
What to look for: This is probably the most technical fight on the card. Both fighters like to push the pace, but will do so without putting themselves in a great amount of danger. With that said, this fight will likely go anywhere and everywhere with some fun grappling transitions coming along for the ride.
My pick: Both guys have looked on the up and up in their last few performances. It's a tough one to pick but Miller brings more tools to the table. I'll go with him by decision.
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